Authors: C. J. Archer
Tags: #Romance, #Historical, #Mystery, #Paranormal, #Fantasy, #Paranormal Romance, #Historical Romance, #Gothic, #teen, #Young Adult, #Ghosts, #Spirits, #Victorian, #New adult
By C.J. Archer
Copyright 2012 C.J. Archer
Visit C.J. at
The Medium (Emily Chambers Spirit Medium
Possession (Emily Chambers Spirit Medium
Her Secret Desire (Lord Hawkesbury's Players
Scandal's Mistress (Lord Hawkesbury's Players
To Tempt The Devil (Lord Hawkesbury's Players
Honor Bound (The Witchblade Chronicles
Kiss Of Ash (The Witchblade Chronicles
The Mercenary's Price
Smashwords Edition, License Notes
This ebook is licensed for your personal
enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to
other people. If you would like to share this book with another
person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If
you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not
purchased for your use only, then please return to Smashwords.com
and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work
of this author.
London, Spring 1880
"Something's wrong," said the spirit of Lord
"So I see." I squinted at the flickering
entity standing beside the piano in Lady Willoughby's drawing room.
The seven members of my audience watched me as I focused on the
ghost they could neither see nor hear. Whether their expressions
were mostly curious or afraid or a little of both, I didn't notice.
I was much too intent on Lord Fulham.
He had been seventy-two when he'd died but
was still a tall figure, albeit shaped like a wine barrel with a
round, full middle. Yet he was not an imposing spirit. He trembled
like a flame fighting a draught and was as transparent as a piece
of fine muslin. I had never met a spirit that manifested so
"Are you about to cross?" I asked him.
He gave a nervous shake of his head. "I
can't. None of us can."
"I cannot stay here. It's much too
difficult." His voice drifted off along with his body, but only for
a moment before both returned even weaker. "The
effort...costs...too much..." His wide eyes implored me, but to
what end, I didn't know. If he weren't a ghost, I'd say he looked
afraid, but what could a dead man possibly fear?
I was about to ask him when he disappeared
"Lord Fulham! Lord Fulham, return to me,
please. Your loved ones wish to speak with you."
"Emily?" whispered my sister, Celia, sitting
beside me at the table. "Is everything all right? You look like
you've seen a... Oh, never mind."
Cold dread prickled my skin. Summoning
spirits was an imprecise activity. Some had already crossed over to
the Otherworld and could not hear my call, let alone act upon it.
Others didn't want to revisit the living and simply ignored me. But
never had I known ghosts that heard my call and wanted to come but
Until yesterday. Lord Fulham was the second
ghost in two days who had not been able to remain in our realm.
"Emily?" Celia prompted. "Is Lord Fulham's
spirit with us?"
"He was," I said. "But he's gone."
"Gone where?" Lady Preston asked from her
position on the opposite side of the table. The elegant countess
clutched the hand of her friend, our hostess and Lord Fulham's
daughter, Lady Willoughby, sitting next to her. The unease in her
voice tugged at me. Lady Preston was particularly sensitive about
communicating with the dead, having lost her son Jacob and then
finding him again through me. Or, more accurately, she'd found his
"He has returned to the Waiting Area." I
turned to my audience, which consisted of Celia plus six ladies
from the upper echelons of London Society. It was the most elite
séance we'd ever had, thanks to Lady Preston who'd suggested our
services to Lady Willoughby. I didn't like disappointing them, but
what else could I do?
"I'm sorry, Lady Willoughby." I gave her a
sympathetic smile that I'd seen Celia use many times with the
bereaved. She was very good when it came to death and dealing with
mourners. Quite an expert, in fact. Undertakers could learn much
from her simple, heart-felt gestures. I was the only one aware that
she was acting. "He would like to speak to you," I went on, "but
he...needs to crossover."
I congratulated myself on a lie well told.
Not a single one of the audience appeared to disbelieve me. They
did, however, seem disappointed to be missing out on the spectacle
of objects moving around the drawing room, and indeed Lady
Willoughby sniffed into her handkerchief. She had dearly wanted to
speak to her father.
Only Celia frowned in puzzlement. She was
still frowning when Lady Willoughby rose and tugged the bell cord
"What a shame," said Adelaide Beaufort, Lady
Preston's daughter, sitting on my other side at the small
rectangular table. She and I were the same age and had developed a
friendship in the previous weeks once it became known I'd
communicated with her brother's ghost. "I believe Lady Willoughby
wanted to ask her father where he'd hidden the key to his wine
cellar. No one can find it, you see, and he had a very fine
As she spoke, my gaze drifted to Lady
Willoughby herself. Our hostess straightened, wrinkled her nose as
if she smelled something off, and turned her shoulder to me.
"She doesn't look too disappointed anymore,"
I muttered. "Adelaide, did your mother find it difficult to
convince Lady Willoughby to host this event?"
Adelaide studied her fingernails. An
avoidance tactic if ever I saw one. "A little." She cringed.
"Sorry, I shouldn't tell you."
"No, it's all right. I thought she seemed
enthusiastic at first, but now...now she looks at me as if I were a
"Oh, Emily. You're not a fraud. Mother and I
both know it. Forget what others think."
I smiled as sweetly as I could. "Of course."
But I couldn't forget. Celia's and my independence depended upon
the public believing us. Our income wasn't particularly high, but
we had begun to make good money thanks to Lady Preston urging her
friends to engage us. Sometimes we had two bookings during the day
and another in the evening, quite unheard of until now. I liked to
be busy. It kept me from thinking about Jacob Beaufort and that I
hadn't seen him since we'd sent a rather horrible ghost back two
weeks ago after he possessed a number of our friends.
I missed him. I felt hollow without him, like
an empty shell washed up on the shore.
"Once they see you having a conversation with
a ghost, they'll know that you are a genuine medium," Adelaide went
on. She watched the other guests beneath half-lowered lashes, a
stern set to her brow that defied anyone to question my
authenticity. She was like a bulldog, albeit a pretty, blonde
"It's hard to have a conversation with a
spirit when they cannot talk to you for very long," I said,
pretending not to notice the way all the other guests avoided my
"Lord Fulham couldn't stay?" Adelaide
"No. The same thing happened with another
spirit yesterday. Neither she nor Lord Fulham had the strength to
remain. There is something happening in the Waiting Area. Both
appeared more faded than usual and neither was able to appear for
long. Lord Fulham said it was too difficult." I didn't tell her
about the frightened look on his face. It was a look that had
unsettled me, but I saw no reason to worry Adelaide.
"Jacob will know more," Adelaide said with
certainty. "You should summon him and ask."
I would have dearly loved to do precisely
that, but I wasn't sure of the reception I'd receive from him. He'd
made it clear the last time we met that he wished to end whatever
lay between us. He'd driven the point home by not coming to me
A footman entered carrying a tea service on a
silver tray. I watched as he deposited cups, saucers, teapot, and
other pieces on the table. A lull snuffed out the conversations and
I looked up to see everyone watching me. I cast my audience a
genteel smile and rose.
"Celia, shall we?"
"Let me gather my things." Celia liked to
linger at afternoon séances, especially if our hostess was one of
Society's leading ladies. I used to think it was because she
enjoyed the sandwiches and buns, but now I knew it was because she
wanted to make contacts among London's elite. The fact she did not
wish to stay and chat to Lady Willoughby and her guests meant she
knew something was wrong and wished to question me.
I sighed. Celia's interrogations were little
better than her lectures and always tested my endurance.
Adelaide put a gentle hand on my arm, staying
me. There was a gleam in her blue eyes and a flush to her cheeks
that wasn't there before. "I wanted to ask you about my coming out
"Celia and I will both be there," I said,
cheering a little at the thought. "Did you not get our reply?"
"Oh, yes! We did. I'm so pleased you can
"Then what is it? If you need advice on gowns
then I'm afraid I'm not the best person to ask." Celia and I could
ill afford a new outfit each for the ball, and she had decided I
alone would receive one while she wore something older. We'd relied
on the dressmaker to advise us of the latest in evening fashions as
we had so little experience. People like us were never invited to
"I have not received an answer from George
and the ball is only five days away." She shot a glance at her
mother, conversing with Lady Willoughby and an elderly woman with a
black veil covering her eyes. "Do you think he'll come?"
"I didn't know George's presence was so
important to you."
"Oh. It is. Of course it is. I want all my
friends there." She fiddled with a lock of hair at her temple, but
it wasn't out of place. It never was. Adelaide had perfect hair,
unlike mine, which was coal black and as messy as a child's
scribble when I let it loose from its tight arrangement.
"I'm glad you consider George a friend after
such a short acquaintance. He's a good man." I'd met George Culvert
only recently, but already we were as close as two friends of the
opposite sex could be without taking the relationship further. He
was an acquaintance of Jacob's and a demonologist with an extensive
library on supernatural subjects. It was thanks to his books and
his help that Jacob and I had stopped demons and evil spirits from
"He is," Adelaide said quietly. "The best."
She blushed again.
"Have you developed feelings for him?"
Perhaps it was a little too direct, but I wasn't fond of dancing
around important subjects. And what could be more important than
the hearts of two dear friends?
Adelaide's blush deepened and she lowered her
head but not before I saw her cast another glance at her mother.
"The Culverts are not the sort of family of which we approve." It
was such an odd thing for her to say that I wondered if she were
merely repeating words uttered by her parents. Although George was
wealthy, his mother was a social-climbing, small-minded woman, and
the late Mr. Culvert had been an eccentric with an interest in the
supernatural, like George himself. I could not see the cynical and
upright Lord Preston sitting down to dine with a demonologist.
Which was why Adelaide's invitation to George had been such a
surprise. Her invitation to me was even more extraordinary. Her
father didn't like me. He'd called me a fraud to my face and
ordered me off his property more than once. Adelaide and her mother
must have convinced him somehow, but even so, I wasn't looking
forward to seeing him on the night.
"Nevertheless, George is a good man, as you
say," Adelaide whispered behind her hand, as if she'd said
I opened my mouth to question her further
when a middle-aged man walked into the drawing room. Behind him,
ducking a little beneath the doorway, stood Lord Preston.
"My dear!" cried Lady Willoughby. She jumped
to her feet, knocking the table. The teacups rattled in their
saucers. "You're home early."
"No one was at the club except for Preston
here," said Lord Willoughby. He bowed to his wife. "My apologies,
but I wasn't aware you had guests this afternoon." His friendly
gap-toothed smile was bestowed to each of the ladies in turn. Until
he got to me. It slipped right off his face. "Er...I don't believe
we've had the pleasure."